God is going to bring every nation on this earth under his rule.
That’s what Genesis Chapter 10 is getting at — although that may not be the most obvious thing when we first look here. The reason we just read Verse 1 earlier is because the 30 verses after Verse 1 are all part of a genealogy, and the most obvious thing about a genealogy is that it’s a list of names, and like most times when we see this in the Bible, it’s not immediately clear what the point is.
So to really understand what is happening here with all these names we have to step back a little bit and see this within the bigger painting, and that’s what I want us to do today. So it’s going to be pretty straightforward. The plan for us is to just take a step back and look at three things this chapter is telling us. Genesis 10 is telling us . . .
- How we’re all united.
- Why we’re still divided.
- What God is doing to do about it.
1. How We’re All United
So back in college, like many of you, I took Western Civ, and on the first day of class, I remember, we started the entire course in Genesis Chapter 10. That’s what happens when your college is a confessional Christian institution that takes the Bible seriously. If you take the Bible seriously then it means you understand that every person and culture on this earth is traced back to Shem, Ham, and Japheth — Noah’s three sons.
These three sons are the only ancestral options. Think about what we’ve seen in Genesis so far: we’ve just come through the the flood in Chapters 6 to 8. Every living thing on the earth has been destroyed, except for Noah and those with him, which includes the animals with him on the ark, Noah’s wife, and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives — eight humans in total. Every other human has been wiped out. Which means, the future of humanity is going to come from Noah’s three sons. That’s what Chapter 10 is showing us.
Noah’s three sons went on to have their own sons after the flood, that’s Verse 1, and then those sons eventually went on to make up every nation on the earth, scattered all throughout the earth. That’s a central point here in Chapter 10. Everybody comes from either Shem, Ham, or Japheth. And we can see this point made a few different ways in the passage. So let me just show you that for a minute. Here are three ways we know that all nations on the earth are in view here . . .
1. There are seventy nations mentioned.
If you were to count, there are exactly seventy names mentioned here, each representing seventy different nations. And the number seventy is important. This is not an exhaustive list; it’s not meant to catalog every single person on the planet, but the number seventy is meant to signify totality. The number seven means completeness in the Bible. And so when we read seventy names, we’re supposed to think comprehensive and complete. The idea here is that all the nations of the earth came from Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
We see this again, in that…
2. The concluding phrases at each turn say the same thing.
Notice that after the genealogies are given for each of the three sons, there’s a concluding phrase about the nations just mentioned.
Verse 5, after Japheth, we read: “From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.”
Verse 20, after Ham, we read: “These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.”
Verse 31, after Shem, we read: “These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.”
And then the final summary, verse 32, he says “and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.”
The point here is to say, pretty clearly, that multiple peoples and languages and nations are represented here. All the nations are accounted for. Moses, who wrote this, is making sure we know that from these three brothers have come all the nations scattered throughout the earth. Moses is saying to Israel, basically:
Hey, you know those nations over there with their own languages and territories, well they came from this; and then you know those other nations over that way with their own languages and territories, well they came from this too; and then all these nations that surround us, including ourselves, yeah, we all came from this, too.
That’s what Moses is saying. All the nations on the earth came from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. That’s the point. But then notice, third . . .
3. There’s an explanation for how they became so different and scattered.
Notice how Chapter 11 begins. 11, verse 1 —
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
So get this: Chapter 10 shows us several different nations with different languages living in different places. And Chapter 11 shows us the whole earth all speaking the same language and living in the same place. Now how does that work?
Well, it’s because Chapters 10 and 11 are not in chronological order. Most of the time when we see genealogies, the point is to give us an overview of things. That’s what Chapter 10 is doing. It just gives us an overview. And then Chapter 11 comes in to give us the backstory of Babel, which tells us why things became the way they are. So Chapter 10 is really a set-up, with more to be said about it.
We’re going to see that next week when Pastor Joe unfolds Chapter 11, but for now, in Chapter 10, what we’re supposed to see is: all these different nations, speaking all these different languages, spread out all throughout the earth. That’s Chapter 10. There is a vastness to it.
Different and the Same
And we can understand the vastness. We all know, whatever our backgrounds are, that the earth is full of people who look and talk differently than me. Right?
Now there was a time in world history, for centuries, when the different peoples of the earth did not know about one another. Can you imagine that for minute?
Before the technology we have today, most people grew up and spent their entire lives not knowing that people different from them even existed. That still happens today in some developing countries, or among isolated tribes of people, but most people — and all of us — know that the earth is full of people who look differently from me and talk differently from me.
Technology is a one reason why that’s the case, but it’s also because of things like globalization. Specific nations and languages are no longer confined to specific territories. We can travel like never before. Where you were born doesn’t mean that’s where you’re going to stay. Case in point: I doubt any of our ancestors are from Minnesota, or even North America. And even in this country, I live in Minnesota but you can probably tell by the way I talk that I’m not from Minnesota. Millions of people have just moved around. We live in a multicultural society and age.
And this all means that today more than ever we are aware of our differences. We can see and feel that we are not all alike, BUT — if we take the Bible seriously, our differences are not the whole truth. In fact, if we take the Bible seriously, the most important truth is not how we’re all different, but it’s how we’re all the same. The most important truth here is how we’re all united.
And I think we really need to get this. What we learn in this text is that it doesn’t matter where someone is from or what their background is — for all of us, it doesn’t matter how different we seem from one other, our granddaddies were brothers.
And our granddaddies each had Noah as their daddy, and Noah goes back to Adam. Which means, although we have different ethnic backgrounds and different physical features and different cultural experiences, we’re all the same race because we’re all human. We’ve all been created by God, and we’ve all come from the same man.
And I don’t mean this in some poetic kind of way. I’m saying this literally. Take any person in this room, or any person in these cities, or any person in this world, and you trace back their family history, you’re going to find out, eventually, that we’re cousins. All of us are. We’re all cousins. The people who look the most different from you, they’re your cousin. That’s how united we are as humans. And that means something for how we see each other.
Okay, so we’re all united, but, also, we’re still divided. Let’s look at how that goes.
2. Why We’re Still Divided
So in Chapter 10 there’s a little clue that refers to what divides us. We see it in the genealogy of Shem that begins in verse 21. And Shem is a big deal in the Bible. He’s the son who is blessed by God at the end of Chapter 9, and he’s the first son mentioned in Chapter 10, Verse 1. So we need to pay special attention to Shem.
First notice in verse 21 that Shem is called the father of “all the children of Eber.” Well, Eber, is where the word “Hebrew” comes from. So scholars think that Eber is mentioned right from the start because we’re supposed to know that Shem is the father of the Hebrews (again, Shem’s a big deal). So check out verse 25. We read here that Eber had two sons, one named Peleg, and other Joktan. And the little clue we see here is in the description about Peleg. Verse 25,
To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg [now “Peleg” means division, and then here’s the description], for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.
Now, what does it mean that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg?
Well, what’s interesting is that we actually see a division occur here in the genealogy. The next verse, verse 26, picks up with the sons of Joktan, but the sons of Peleg aren’t mentioned again until the end of Chapter 11. So Peleg and Joktan are divided, and literally, in the text, we see something come between the genealogies of these two brothers — the story of Babel. Babel is what divides them (and it’s what divides us).
Remember: Chapter 10’s genealogy is an overview that explains all the nations on the earth.Well, when Chapter 10, Verse 25 says that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg, that is actually a reference to Babel. The event of Babel described in Chapter 11, verses 1–9, happened in Peleg’s lifetime and that’s where the division comes from.
We can see this in the text. Again, after verse 25 we don’t see anything about Peleg until after Babel in Chapter 11. Right after the story of Babel, down in Chapter 11, verse 10, we see a second genealogy of Shem, and it repeats everything said about Shem in Chapter 10, but with one big difference. Look Chapter 11, verse 16 when it gets to Eber.
When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg.
That’s it. There’s no mention of his brother Joktanm, and what follows is just the sons of Peleg.
So there are two genealogies of Shem, and the split happens with these two brothers. Before the story of Babel, in Chapter 10, we just see the line of Joktan. And then after Babel, in Chapter 11, we just see the line of Peleg. Babel is the fork in the road. In the text, the one brother Joktan, leads to and is associated with Babel. And the other brother, Peleg, if we keep reading, leads to and is associated with a man named Abram, who becomes Abraham.
The Message to Get Across
And there’s a message here that Moses is trying to get across. This is not just literary move. This has to do with the meaning and symbolism of Babel and Abraham.
Babel, as Joe will show us next week, was when humans tried to assume the place of God and make a name for themselves. Babel becomes the epitome of religious rebellion and self-worship. But Abraham, as we see in the rest of Scripture, is different from Babel. He has a name given to him by God. He’s the symbol of faith. Abraham becomes the epitome of what it means to trust God and his promises.
So Joktan leads to Babel; Peleg leads to Abraham; and those are very different places. So although we’re all united, we’re still divided — but here’s the thing: what divides us is not our family background, it’s the allegiance of our souls.
We have two brothers here — they’re brothers — and one leads to rebellion and the other leads to faith. And what this means for us is that what makes us different is not where we came from, it’s who we trust.
Are you going to trust in yourself? Are you going to try to assume God’s place for him? Are you going to grasp for some kind of self-religious autonomy where you define your own standards? You going to go the way of Babel?
Or, are you going to trust the God who made you? Are you going to trust the God of the Bible, who is bigger than you, who created you and sustains you and calls you to himself? Will you lift your eyes not to the hills, but to the Maker of the hills? Who are you going to trust?
That’s what divides us. It’s not where we came from, it’s who we trust. It’s who we worship.
A Note on Our Problem
I’ve got one little thing I want to say here about racism. This is just a side-note. But this kind of division we see here — this is why the problem of racism is always a spiritual problem.
The cause of racism is not our ethnic and cultural differences, but it’s that some people worship the god of self instead of the God who made everybody — and the god of self has no place for people different from me unless they can be used for my advantage. That’s what Self is about.
So I want us to get the image right in our heads of what’s happening at Babel. It was not a melting pot of friends holding hands and singing koom-ba-ya. Babel was a place where people were using and exploiting one another for their own personal gain — and it’s meant to give us a category for the City of Man in this world. Babel becomes a category for every man-made, self-exalting, God-belittling nation on this earth, which means, right now, we live in Babel. On Tuesday we’re voting in Babel. See, in Babel is where babies get murdered because they can be. In Babel is where ethnic minorities are mistreated with no consequences. In Babel is where power becomes oppression, because in Babel is where the self is god. And that is our problem. Close side-note.
So we’re all united because our granddaddies are brothers, but we’re still divided because many go the way of Babel. So, the question is: What is God going to do about it?
3. What God Is Going to Do About It
Well, here’s what God is going to do: God is going to bring every nation on this earth under his rule. Which means, there will be those from every nation who will indeed worship and trust the one true God. And the Bible is going to show us this.
The list of these seventy nations in Genesis 10 really does set up the rest of the Bible’s storyline. Many of these nations are seen again and again throughout the Old Testament, and one thing that the Bible is clear to show us is that God is not going to confine his glory to just one little nation mentioned here. He chooses one nation, Israel, to work through, but God intends to bring every nation on this earth under his rule, and we can see that here even in Genesis.
We see it first with Abraham. God chooses one man, Abraham, and from him comes the people of Israel, but the promise to Abraham right from the start, in Genesis 12:3, is that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So this is all the nations. God will bless all the nations.
Then if we read on in the Bible, a few books later we come to the book of Numbers, Chapter 24. And the quick story here in Numbers is that there was this pagan king who wanted to curse Israel. Like Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, he’s trying to overthrow God’s people, and so he hires a prophet to curse Israel. But the prophet, named Balaam, can’t do it. Every time he tries to speak a curse on God’s people, he instead speaks a blessing, and these blessings all allude back to Genesis. They connect back to God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations, but there’s something new: this time in the blessing there is a king in view.
The gist of Numbers 24 is that God’s people are not going be defeated, but instead, they are going to grow, and God’s reign is going to advance everywhere, and his reign is going to be centered on this one king who is going to come. Listen to Number 24:17. This is Balaam speaking about this king who will come. He says,
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
[a scepter is a king’s staff; this is about a king and his reign; and this king, apparently, is going to be skull-crusher]
Edom shall be dispossessed;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
Israel is doing valiantly.
And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
and destroy the survivors of cities!
Translation: a skull-crushing king is coming to Israel and he’s going to rule over all the nations. He will have dominion over his enemies.
And we read more about this king over in the book of Psalms, later on in the middle of the Bible. The book of Psalms is a collection of poems and songs, and in Psalm 72 we see this amazing poem about a future king who is going to reign over all the nations on the earth. Psalm 72:17 says about this king,
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!
Did you hear that? All the nations are going to be blessed in this king.
He’s going to rule over all the nations on the earth, and all the nations on the earth are going to be blessed by his rule. It’s going to be a good rule. He’s going to be a good king. But how’s this work?
Cue the Imagination
Well, we have to use our imagination here. Imagine with me, for a minute, that there are people from every nation on this earth all together in one place. All the cousins come together with all of our different backgrounds and our different cultural experiences — we’re all together — and do you know what we’re doing? We’re singing. We’re all together and we’re singing. And do you know what we’re singing?
Well, we’re all looking at our king, together, and we’re singing . . .
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9–10)
See, God is going to bring every nation on this earth under his rule, and he’s going to do it through Jesus Christ. And it’s not going to happen by a sword; it’s not going to happen by an army; it’s not going to happen by making good deals or by economic expertise or by diplomatic savvy. It won’t happen that way.
The rule of God over every nation on this earth is going to come through Jesus Christ being nailed to a cross and dying in the place of sinners. Because he is a King who is a Savior!
And he will rule over all for whom he suffered — and he suffered, Jesus was slain, for sinners from every tribe and language and people and nation, and one day that will be the entire earth . . .
All of us different, all of us cousins, all of us united around the worship Jesus our king.
And for the others of us who’ve trusted Jesus already, as we come to the Table, I want you to remember the rule of Jesus in your life. It’s a good rule. He’s a good king. He is a king who gave himself for his people, and that’s what is represented in the bread and cup.
The bread represents the broken body of Jesus. The cup represents his shed blood. And we enjoy this Table today as the covenant members of Cities Church, but also, if Jesus is your king, we want to invite you to eat and drink with us.
We will serve the bread first. And we have gluten-free if you want it.
His body is the true bread.
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
As we serve the cup, let me draw attention to the options. The portion in the middle is wine, and the outer ring is grape juice.
His blood is the true drink.
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. Amen.